I am looking out the master bedroom window on this evening in early June. It’s not light anymore but it’s not dark yet, either. From Dad’s bedroom window I watch the younger neighborhood kids trying to squeeze in as much silliness and running around as they can before they get called in for bedtime. I see Mrs. Walker sitting out on her front step smoking a cigarette while talking to someone on a cordless phone. For her and her leather-bound body another day of excessive tanning is drawing to a close. The conversation ends, then she looks up at this window and sees me standing here.
That queasy feeling returns, as it usually does around this time of night when Dad is working. I turn around and walk to my room, rubbing my tummy even though I know it’ll do no good. I sit on the edge of my bed and glance at the framed photo on my bedside table of Mom holding me when I was two. I miss her so badly and would give anything just to be able to tell her as much. So often I wish I could vanish from this world and into the one in that picture, spending eternity in Mom’s arms. Problem is, I’m stuck with this world, and so I place the photo face-down, as I do every night. There are some things a mother should never have to witness.
It is morning, and I am eating cereal in the kitchen when Dad comes in the front door. “How ya doin’, sport?” he calls out from the vestibule as he removes his safety boots.
“Alright,” I reply between mouthfuls of Corn Flakes.
As he comes into the kitchen I ask him how work was.
“Ah, okay. One of the machines kept goin’ down, so I had the toolbox open most of the night. I keep tellin’ ’em they gotta train some of the other guys to fix things themselves. What happens if I’m off some night? It’s either call someone in at double-time, or make do with a bunch of operators standing around looking stunned.”
As he’s talking an inner voice is saying I need to tell him about what’s been going on. But I can’t do that. No way. I don’t want him to be ashamed of me.
My overstuffed backpack puts up a fight when I try to get it into my locker. Finally, with the right angle and enough violence and force, it goes in, wedged in mid-air beneath…